It’s an exaggeration to call it a climb. Ascending to the top of Mt. Longonot (2,560 meters above sea level) in Kenya’s Rift Valley is more like a steep hike. While you may not need any gear beyond a good pair of running shoes or hiking boots, plenty of water in your backpack, and a camera, reaching the summit of Longonot yields some rich life lessons. Here’s what I’ve learned from three times up-and-down this fascinating dormant volcano:
- Walking alone is O.K., but having companions is better. Conversation along the path helps pass the time, and when you get tired, an encouraging word from a friend can do wonders. Sometimes, you can even lend a steadying hand when the path gets too rocky for a fellow-traveler.
- Be willing to guide another hiker on to the right path. A seasoned hiker on the way up saw that I had taken a wrong turn on the way down, that I was heading for a dead end. He spoke up, warned me of the danger, and voice-guided me back to the right path. I was grateful.
- You need nourishment on the trail. Even if you’ve eaten a good breakfast, the hike is a long one. Make sure to eat something along the way. I shared a bag of raisins – one of my favorite healthy snacks – and others shared their snacks with me.
- Stay together. One of our group got a burst of energy and blazed ahead. When he realized several of us were taking too long, out of concern, he doubled-back to check on us. We need people like that for whom “winning” is less important than making sure every one is still making progress.
- Carry a walking stick. Especially on the way down, your legs will weaken since the path is steep and you feel like an 18-wheeler braking as it descends. The stick helps you balance and takes some of the weight off your legs. And if a snake should appear – always a possibility in Kenya – at least you have a weapon for defense! I always carry my four iron. I’ve never hit golf balls far with it, but it’s plenty useful on Longonot.
- The scenic summit makes the tough ascent worth it. On the way back down, hikers verbally spur on those still struggling to ascend: “Keep going! It’s beautiful at the top.” In the case of Longonot, successful hikers are rewarded with the sight of a massive crater lined with verdant trees. The air is fresh and the view of the Rift Valley is breathtaking. All the effort pays off.
As in hiking, so it is in walking with Christ. It’s not “Jesus and me.” Rather, because we are part of a community of faith, it’s always “Jesus and we.” Take spiritual nourishment along the way and stay together.
Paul reminds us: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:9, NIV). The goal for every follower of Christ is eternal fellowship with the Triune God, resurrected life together in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-5). This is the “view from the top” and it’s worth every sacrifice.